Until now, the Secretary to the government of the Federation (SGF) was in his home town in Adamawa state enjoying his farming activities. When the President faced the problem of appointing a capable hand to man the position of SGF, it took him a while to locate Babachair Lawal who was his closest person and confidant for the post. The loyal role Lawal is playing in PMB’s government has not come to rational minds as a surprise. And the attacks that are coming his way are not equally lost in the minds of watchers of political events in Nigeria either.
The very first time Babachair Lawal caught the attention of this writer was about one and half years ago when he was invited by Ondo state government on the occasion of council of Engineers conference in the state. He was invited to the event, first, as an engineer and in his capacity as the SGF. In his address at the event, he took time to explain the role Asiwaju Bola Tinubu played in his appointment. It was from that event that I knew that the Adamawa born technocrat was not just an engineer but a consummate politician who knows the meaning of appreciation.
What appears to be a sustained attack against the person of Babachair David Lawal by the National Assembly, in particular, the Senate started the very day he said Federal Government would not be able to implement the 2016 budget 100% due to dwindling oil revenue which occasioned economic recession. Specifically, he said the constituency project in the budget will not be implemented. That was Lawal’s “Sin”, he was then marked out for attack. He was promptly summoned to appear before the joint Senate Committees on Appropriation, Finance and Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions. According to reports, he was quoted as saying that government might find it difficult to implement constituency projects because MDAs might not find constituency projects as critical to the execution of their mandates and given the dwindling resources. It is important informed minds should know that Babachair Lawal will not in any circumstances refuse a lawful summon by the Senate.
Here is how Daily Trust newspaper report the appearance of SGF before the Senate: —“Mr. Lawal was asked to appear before the three Senate committees before the end of this week and he promptly did so. This was a very good example set by the SGF, which stands in contrast to that of Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, SAN who twice shunned summons by the Senate to appear before its committees until it threatened to get the police to arrest him. A public officer should not be reluctant to appear before the National Assembly to explain any official action or statement because that is what the Constitution expects. Lawal however complained about a sentence in the invitation letter which told him not to find excuses not to appear. We fully support him in that observation. Invitation letters to top officials should be decorous and should not unduly provoke them with statements like that one”—
In-fact, Daily Trust report on the conversation between the Senate committees and SGF is very important in understanding the character of Babachair Lawal; hear vintage Lawal: when asked about the Daily Trust story quoting him to have said that legislators’ pet constituency projects may not be implemented this year, Lawal said the report is correct. We again commend the SGF for being truthful and not hiding behind public officers’ regular claim that they were misquoted or quoted out of context. Public officers should have the courage to own up to statements they made, even if they were mistaken, while we also urge journalists to strive for accuracy in news reporting and not to unduly sensationalise or interpret statements and end up misrepresenting them. The next question is, why should constituency projects, which are part and parcel of a budget approved by the National Assembly and signed into law, not be implemented? Lawal said it is because of the drastic fall in government revenue, of which only 50 percent of the projected amount so far this year has been collected. He blamed activities of the Niger Delta Avengers, which at one time cut oil production from a projected 2.2 million to 800,000 barrels a day, for the dire situation. Again this is frank talk and we commend the SGF one more time for it”.
Anyone who is still at loss as to why the Senate should embark on media corruption trial of SGF over IDP camp contract, should not go far, his stand on 2016 constituency project is the matter. Although, we must concede to fact that the constitution empowers the National Assembly to expose corruption; but when the mandate is now used for the purpose of media trial and conviction it becomes worrisome. Since they have found SGF guilty as they charged him, why asking him to appear before them after judgment? The worrisome report that Senators sought contracts and failed to secure it in PINE could still be the reason the Senate is up in arm against SGF. One may not need rocket science to know that Babachair Lawal’s loyalty to PMB led administration is the principal “sin” he has committed.
On the media angle, especially the Social media, the SGF has become object of constant attack, for “sin” of loyalty. When the President was away on medical treatment, mischief makers, hypocrites, haters of the President and corrupt politicians joined forces to insult and wish him dead. Again, Babachair Lawal defended the President against these people. When some rented elements protested against the government, the SGF came out to say that the protesters were haired by corrupt politicians to embarrass the President. While most of the political appointees were cautious in pro-PMB activities, Lawal stick out his neck.